Catharine A. MacKinnon, the Elizabeth A. Long Professor of Law at the University of Michigan Law School and the James Barr Ames Visiting Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, received the 2014 Ruth Bader Ginsburg Lifetime Achievement Award from the AALS Section on Women in Legal Education. The award was presented at the Section Luncheon on Jan. 3 in New York City.
According to the award criteria, “[T]he purpose of the Ruth Bader Ginsburg Lifetime Achievement Award is to honor an individual who has had a distinguished career of teaching, service, and scholarship for at least 20 years. The recipient should be someone who has impacted women, the legal community, the academy, and the issues that affect women through mentoring, writing, speaking, activism, and by providing opportunities to others.”
Said Harvard Law School Dean Martha Minow: “For decades, Catharine MacKinnon has led work against gender discrimination with imagination and courage. As a thinker, scholar and advocate, she has conceived, crafted and advanced some of the most powerful arguments that courts and other institutions — at home and abroad — have recognized and adopted during long and continuing struggles for equal justice. It is especially lovely that this award through its name and purpose links her with Justice Bader Ginsburg, as in different ways they each have used legal tools with brilliance, tenacity, and effectiveness in tackling gender bias and making a better world for future generations.”
An internationally-acclaimed scholar and lawyer, MacKinnon is the author of “Feminism Unmodified and Toward a Feminist Theory of the State,” and “Are Women Human?” Widely published in many languages, her dozen books include “Sexual Harassment of Working Women” (1979), “Toward a Feminist Theory of the State” (1989), “Only Words” (1993), “Women’s Lives, Men’s Laws” (2005), and her casebook “Sex Equality” (2001/2007).
MacKinnon created the concept that sexual abuse violates equality rights, pioneering and winning recognition of the legal claim for sexual harassment as sex discrimination and, with Andrea Dworkin, recognition of the harms of pornography as civil rights violations.
Representing Bosnian women survivors of Serbian sexual atrocities, she was instrumental in establishing legal recognition of rape as an act of genocide and won with co-counsel a $745 million verdict at trial.
MacKinnon practices and consults nationally and internationally and works regularly with Equality Now, an NGO promoting international sex equality rights for women, and the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW). Serving as the first Special Gender Adviser to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (The Hague) from 2008 to 2012, she implemented her concept “gender crime.”
MacKinnon’s nominators cited her groundbreaking scholarship and her legal activism that has made it possible to address sexual harassment and violence against women as forms of sex inequality. MacKinnon was also recognized for her inspiration of several generations of law students toward creative careers in a variety of legal and policy pursuits.
As one nominator said, “No one in our field has had more impact on women’s rights, possibilities, and self-respect. Professor MacKinnon’s leadership and co-operation with peers has opened doors and inspired hope in women everywhere.”
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was the first recipient of the award that is now named in her honor. This is the second time the AALS Section on Women in Legal Education is making its most prestigious award.